Fishermen buoyed by stadium rehab

The Boston community reacts to the Dorchester Education Complex RISE UP initiative. Jacob Belcher/ESPNHS

A month after ESPNHS renovated the Dorchester Education Complex (Boston, Mass.) athletic facilities as part of its RISE UP initiative, another Bay State high school sports program is getting a makeover.

New Balance has pledged $500,000 spread out over the next 10 years for naming rights to Gloucester High's 75-year-old Newell Stadium -- home of 2001-02 Gatorade Massachusetts Football Player of the Year Jim Unis. The stadium’s bathroom facilities were recently condemned, and the track team has not held a home meet in six years due to unsafe conditions.

"It makes a big difference when resources and facilities reflect the values of a community," said Unis, a two-way end and ferocious hitter as a four-year starter for the Fishermen. "This project is impressive, especially considering the economics of the times, and it will mean a lot to Gloucester -- not just to the student-athletes, but to families and neighbors who need a safe open space to play with their kids. That was a big deal for me growing up. It shaped my perspective and who I've become."

Unis, 28, captured All-USA and All-America honors from USA Today and PARADE Magazine as a high school senior before playing with current Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Vince Young in the 2002 U.S. Army All-American Bowl. He led Gloucester to a 40-3 record during his tenure, including two super bowl appearances and a state title in 2000. Unis earned significant playing time on Boston College's defensive line as a true freshman in 2002. Honored as BC's Freshman Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year following his debut season, Unis was forced from football as a sophomore by repeat concussion syndrome. Today he is spearheading the launch of an athletics, health and wellness curriculum at the Boston Preparatory Charter Public School in Hyde Park.

In addition to New Balance's pledge, the City of Gloucester is expected to spend $1.5 million for a renovation project, estimated to cost $3.5 million.

Meanwhile, ESPN continues airing a television series about the ESPNHS RISE UP initiative. The Wellston High (Ohio), Ingraham High (Seattle, Wash.) and Dorchester Academy premiers have already appeared. A fourth and final episode -- at Chicago's Dyett High -- will air again on ESPNU later this month. For the complete schedule of broadcast and re-broadcast dates, click here.